Take Care of Your Sheepdogs

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My dog has an obsession with our kitten.  He just wants to play and he wants the kitten to play too.  Sully, my Bernese Mountain Dog mix, was very interested in Jack, the orphan kitten, when he came to live at our house.  You see, Jack’s mother had been killed in the road and Jack was still sitting right by her side when my daughter stopped and picked him up.  Jack came home as a 5 week old baby who needed special help.  Sully, who is usually a rambunctious, ball of energy, laid right down and calmly licked Jack from head to toe and then wouldn’t let Jack out of his sight.  For weeks, Sully didn’t want to play, he just wanted to make sure Jack was safe from the perils of under-the-couch or too-near-the-stairs.  Sully alerted us to Jack’s whereabouts repeatedly.  When Jack would be put in the bathroom for eating or sleeping, you could almost see Sully breathe a sigh of relief as he laid down and his shift was over for a spell.  As Jack has grown, Sully has gotten more comfortable with Jack scampering through the room or sliding across the kitchen floor.  Sully will even chase him now and plant a large paw on 6-month-old Jack to get him to stay still for brief period of time.  Sully takes his job as the kitten-herder very seriously.

A traveling pastor came to our church years ago and his sermon was about his role as a sheepdog.  He explained that it was his job to keep the flocks together and headed in the right direction and that the Shepherd counted on him to take his job very seriously.  It was this sermon that came to mind as I watched Jack and Sully in their growing relationship.  Sully certainly wasn’t counted on to keep Jack safe, but he took his self-imposed role to heart and worked at keeping his little tiny flock, (Can 1 animal be considered a flock?) headed in the right direction.  Just as Jack came into Sully’s care from heartache and loss, we are in our Shepherd’s care with heartache, loss, worry, fear, frustration, and longing.  He cares so much for us in our needs that He sends sheepdogs to chase after each and every one of us.  Matthew 18:12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” 

I am so grateful for all of the sheepdogs that have played a part in my life.  There have been pastors and aunts and parents and friends as well as grandparents and cousins who herded me back to God’s path when I had strayed away.  We need to heed our sheepdogs in whatever form they take and know that our Shepherd is looking for us and loving us.

Paul felt this duty too as we read in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

Take care of your sheepdogs.  Pray that they are fed and watered with spiritual food and drink that they may lead us to the path that Jesus has set for us.

Paige and Velma Save the Day

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In a devotion yesterday morning, I read, “God turns to us and hears our cry.  He lifts us out of the darkness, gives us a safe place to stand, and fills our heart with a new song of praise.  And he uses people to do it all!  In fact, God delights in using people to reach out and minister to other people who are wounded or lost.”  (That One Lost Sheep by Mary Southerland in Girlfriends in God)  I didn’t know how that was going to factor into my life so profoundly, but let me explain.

I have a chronic illness and sometimes I hide it very well.  Sometimes, like this past week, it gets the better of me and I can’t just explain it away.  I also teach and last week was my first full week back to school.  There is no tired like beginning of the school year tired.  One last thing.  I also have gout.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, I pray you never do.  Let’s just say debilitating pain and swelling and leave it at that.  It was the perfect storm, the trifecta of problems.

Last night, driving home, I was beyond exhausted and trying to breathe away the pain.  I have about a 35 minute drive so I usually use that time to pray and ponder.  I started crying as soon as I left the school parking lot.  It was the ugly cry; red, runny nose, puffy eyes, mascara down the cheeks, the kind that makes you yawn in the middle from crying so hard.  I also started asking God to help me.  I threw out the fact that I was past my limit and I couldn’t bear this anymore.  The day had done me in.  My pain was too great.  All my issues had swarmed me, covered me, and taken control.  I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the rest of the evening.  I needed to make dinner and most importantly, I needed to give my 4-month-old puppy, Sully, some exercise.  I always say that he’s like a cranky toddler if he doesn’t get worn out before bed.

I got home to my empty house and heard my puppy begging to do something, anything.  Knowing that I couldn’t take him for any length of a walk, I decided on the next best thing.  I would take him to the dog park that was nearby.  I couldn’t run and play with him but he could run around off-leash and chase a ball or a stick or a butterfly or something.  He and I have been to the dog park on a few occasions and have never seen one other dog there.  We drove to the park, limped (I limped, he bounced) on over to the gate and in we went.  I rolled the soccer ball and he looked at me.  Usually he and I run after it and we run all over while he tries to get the ball from me.  I tried to explain that tonight he’d have to play on his own.  He just came and laid down next to the bench.  While I appreciated the love he was showing me, I knew he wouldn’t be so lovey dovey as the evening wore on if he didn’t get some wiggles out.  Then, God sent those other people that I mentioned in the devotion.  Well, it was one person, and her name was Paige (but I didn’t have the chance to ask her name until the end of our time together).  She calmly walked to the gate with her dog who she introduced as Velma and asked if it was okay for them to come in.  I assured her my dog was harmless and she said the same.  She marveled at the fact that she’d never been to this dog park before when there was someone there.  My Sully and her recently adopted Velma checked each other out and the chase was on.  They ran from one end of that dog park to the other and took turns being the chaser and the chasee.  They bumped into things, rolled over each other, and had a ball!  Paige and I got to talking about how Velma got a little cranky in the evenings and needed exercise (her exact words) and how glad she was that Sully and I were there when she came along.  She was glad to see us?  Seriously?  In the puffy, snotty state I was in, I couldn’t believe anyone could be glad to have come across me.  After 30 glorious minutes, Sully and Velma were both laying under separate trees with tongues hanging out.  I must admit; my weary soul was finally taking a breather too.  We leashed them up, introduced ourselves to each other and expressed our hope that we’d run into each other there again.

My puppy slept the whole way home and was subdued for the rest of the evening.  I was in tears again but these tears were ones of gratitude over the fact that God had sent Paige and Velma to reach out to me when I felt particularly lost and to make sure I had help.  He is good indeed!

Romans 12: 5  In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.